Quarantined? Take a course in blockchain

Across the world, millions of people are trapped in their homes to help the global effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19. A quick sweep of Facebook and Instagram gives us some insight into what people are doing to fill the void. Many are doing home bodyweight workouts, others are learning an instrument, and a huge number are just day-drinking and watching Netflix. Productive indeed.

In the background of this fight against Covid is the fight to prevent the global economy from collapsing. With whole industries demobilized and consumers buying little more than essential goods and excess quantities of toilet paper, we appear to be on the cusp of one of the worst recessions in recent memory. We can only hope that world governments can properly stimulate their economies to reduce the long-term economic impact of this unprecedented situation.

A widely-held belief is that cryptocurrencies will provide safe-haven assets to safeguard against the first major economic crisis since the 2008 “credit crunch” which spawned Bitcoin. Whether this proves to be the case or not, cryptoassets stand a good chance of playing an ever-increasing role in the future global economy.

With that all said, now is the perfect time to get to grips with the subject matter, including blockchain technology and the philosophies which underpin it. Fortunately, there are huge catalogs of free resources that we can turn to for this information. Unfortunately, there are also far larger catalogs of poor-quality, speculative, biased materials around should be avoided. In this article, we will detail some of the more reputable sources of information that you can trust to help you to upgrade your knowledge and orient yourself for a crypto-centric future.

Terminology

One of the big problems that newcomers encounter when beginning to learn about blockchain and cryptocurrencies is the language used. There is a significant amount of subject-specific terminology used by crypto-folk to denote various concepts. Many people worry that they won’t be able to understand the content that they are reading due to this exclusive terminology. Fortunately, there are lots of great crypto language guides available online where anything that you don’t understand will be concisely explained. There are thousands of terminology guides but the Crypto Glossary from Alex Pruden and Sonal Chokshi of Andreessen Horowitz is highly recommended: https://a16z.com/2019/11/08/crypto-glossary/  

Curated Reading

As noted in the introduction to this article, one of the biggest problems in learning about blockchain and crypto assets, is the difficulty that non-experts have in discerning high-quality content from low-quality content, biased from unbiased content and speculation from objective truth. This issue can be averted via content curation from trusted experts. Such curation is, unfortunately, difficult to come by. Probably the best, but now slightly outdated, curated reading list available is the a16z Crypto Canon: https://a16z.com/2018/02/10/crypto-readings-resources/

JSTOR, one of the world’s largest and best-respected online hubs for academic research, has large swathes of its content available for general public access. This includes a number of articles and papers that are relevant to finance, blockchain and crypto assets. Academic articles are generally rigorously peer-reviewed and, therefore, can be trusted to be of a relatively high quality. You can access JSTOR resources here: https://www.jstor.org  

Books

Many of us may be taking the lockdown as an opportunity to reduce our “screen time” and read more. Though Twitter, Medium, Hackernoon, and AmaZix’s blog are undeniably the places to get the most up to date information on the crypto space as it happens, there are plenty of hard-paper resources that one can turn to in the quest for crypto knowledge. 

Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption by Ben Mezrich gives a fun historical insight into the early days of the so-called “Bitcoin revolution”. Though it offers little in the way of detailed technical information or practical information on investing in these assets, it does provide a great deal of context that can help you to understand the perspectives of those “-coin maximalists” that occupy various forums and the philosophies that underpin various opinions on crypto assets.

Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond by Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar is an oldy but a goody. This book was foundational in bringing about far greater analysis (as opposed to pure speculation) into the crypto space, introducing fundamental concepts to a mainstream crypto readership. Though the book is now three years old (an eon in the fast-moving blockchain space) and references a number of now dead tokens, much of the fundamental concepts still apply today.

Online Courses

Coinbase Learn offers a basic introduction to what blockchain is, what cryptoassets are, how to buy and sell them, and so on. It is skewed towards showing that Coinbase is a great service and acquiring users but is a useful resource for newcomers nonetheless: https://www.coinbase.com/learn

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies by Princeton University is another good introduction to the cryptosphere. Designed by top academics and taught with an academic style, this 11-week course covers all of the basics in an interactive way complete with easily digestible resources: https://www.coursera.org/learn/cryptocurrency#

Though not really a course, Ethereum has an extensive educational section on its website that can be read as a progressive study. Obviously the content offered is all about Ethereum and biased towards Ethereum being the cryptoasset of the future, but it is nevertheless, important to understand the intricacies of this major entity in the space: https://ethereum.org/learn/#how-ethereum-works

Blockchain Essentials v2 is a video course developed by IBM and taught by IBM blockchain experts. It focuses on the basics of blockchain technologies, looks at different blockchain infrastructures (including IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric) and discusses some of the practical applications of such technologies. The course, as you may imagine, emphasizes the value of Hyperledger, allowing participants to interact with and use the blockchain. It is a more technical course than many of the others on this list but is still very accessible for newcomers. https://cognitiveclass.ai/courses/blockchain-course

Cointelligence Academy offers a range of courses in blockchain and cryptocurrencies for businesses and individuals. The courses are tailored and taught by blockchain and finance professionals including Cointelligence founder On Yavin and investment specialist Mati Greenspan. Courses range from token economics & token design to cryptoasset trading. Though many of the courses are paid for, Cointelligence offers a number of lessons on the basics and “introductions to ” for free here: https://www.cointelligence.com/content/free-sessions/

UNIC’s DFIN-511 Introduction to Digital Currencies is a free Massive Open Online Course taught by two of the biggest names in the space: Andreas Antonopoulos and Antonis Polemitis. The course covers, 1) a theoretical introduction to cryptocurrencies, 2) a practical introduction to cryptocurrencies, 3) banking, financial and regulatory implications of cryptocurrencies and 4) innovation & development. Those that pass the course will become eligible to enroll in the full MSc degree (paid). 

Learn to Code

For those who are interactive learners and interested in learning about crypto assets from a coding perspective, CryptoZombies offers a fun way of learning to code Dapps in the Solidity or Libra languages through the creation of a simple Zombie game. It is a great way to pass the hours in a productive way. It is also a good option for an active “study break” between the other courses on this list since the stages are broken down into short bitesize chunks: https://cryptozombies.io.

The resources outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. For those keen to learn more about blockchain during the global lockdown, there are oceans of information out there that can keep one occupied for as long as it takes for the world to return to normalcy. However you spend your time, stay safe, stay home and, if possible, take this time as an opportunity to improve your knowledge so that you can emerge from the quarantine as a newly minted expert in blockchain. 

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